Wednesday, August 29, 2012

188. If I'm So Successful, Why do I feel Like a Fake - The Impostor Phenomenon by Joan C. Harvey with Cynthia Katz

If I'm so Successful, Why do I feel like a Fake (St Martin's Press, 1984; 246) by Joan C. Harvey and Cynthia Katz is a book about peculiar human behaviour. It discusses what has been referred to as the Impostor Phenomenon where a high-flier - in academia or work - think that he or she does not deserve his or her success. Usually, such individuals feel like they are fakes and have used some exceptional extrinsic values to deceive everyone into believing them and that it is on this that their success is based on. They never attribute their success and promotion or recognition to to their ability but to such things as hard work, beauty, communication and the likes. They see these as external to ability and therefore often feel like cons.

Harvey's book adequately discusses the signs and symptoms of the impostor syndrome and how it happens in the family and in the world. The three main signs of IP as discussed by Harvey are:
  1. The sense of having fooled other people into overestimating your ability;
  2. The attribution of your success to some factor other than intelligence or ability in your role;
  3. The fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Because these individuals believe that hard work - not sleeping, over preparing and others - get the work done, they usually become hyperactive when given the slightest job. They put in their all hoping that they will meet expectations whilst at the same time anticipating that this is the last job that will point out that they are fakes or frauds.

According to Harvey, some of these problems are caused by family members who define roles for children and with time it becomes a burden. For instance, a child may be described as the 'helper'. If such a child grows with the idea that he or she is supposed to be the one who always offers help, it becomes his or her default trait and will go to all possible extent to fulfil this even if he or she is personally suffering in carrying it out. However, people might exhibit some of these traits and might still not be suffering from the IP syndrome. To know whether one is suffering from it or not, Harvey provides - in this book - the Harvey IP Scale, which is a likert type of questions with explanations. Answering the questions will show whether you suffer from it or not. It should also be noted that the IP syndrome is not a discrete or dichotomous measure where you either have it or not. It is on a continuum of differing strengths. The IP syndrome is pervasive and when one identifies with it, one should not feel isolated. 

At just under 250 pages (for the hardcover type) this book presents all one needs to know about the Impostor Phenomenon and how to seek help. Note that the IP syndrome can prevent you from reaching or maximising your potential. It can lead to depression and other such psychological disorders and so help must be ought. This book is highly recommended.

16 comments:

  1. I've been a fan of your blog for some time now, so I decided to give you the Liebster Award:

    http://storberose.blogspot.pt/2012/08/the-2012-liebster-award.html

    Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Miguel. I'm glad you love my blog.

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  2. I remember seeing a programme about a women the was a fake 9/11 survivor ,she may had this condition ,all the best stu

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  3. Hi. Great blog and very interesting post. The famous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges once wrote about how "For years I wrote scared to death of being exposed as a fraud." He didn't understand how people can just write whatever pops into their heads.

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    1. Thanks humblehappiness. According to Harvey people in the creative industry are one group more prone to IP syndrome; hence, I'm not surprised that a great writer - though I'm yet to read him - as Borges will think himself a fraud. It's also because he thinks what he does is easy and therefore everyone could do it, which is not so.

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  4. An interesting phenomenon & one I wasn't aware of & one that would make an interesting fictional tale as well as this non-fiction book you discuss here.

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    1. I thought this was common since this became topical - at least that's what the book portrays - in the 1980s. It could be the topic for a good fiction. Reminds me of one of Dean Koontz's stories where the protagonist was suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

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  5. I have never heard of this I will investigate about it. One lerans something new every day.

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    1. Do Mary. The things we know not are much much more than what we know. This is a strange but pervasive phenomenon.

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    2. Hey Nana, I read a bit about it last night, it is a weird disorder.. I think it could be associated with low self esteem and low self value. It is not just an independent disorder.

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    3. Hi Mary, well the book sought to attribute it to the sufferer's inability to accept that his performance and rise in whatever he is in is due to his ability. Hope you get this book to read. Very good. Has a series of questions that assess if one has IP or not.

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  6. What a fine review. We parents have to take a cue. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Yes we should. But there are also several other causes.

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  7. Need to check this one out. Seconded, thanks for sharing this.

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